Clemson University

Clemson star Isaiah Simmons is a perfectionist who believes he is far from perfect

When most of the country breaks down the season Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons is having, they see a versatile defender who is one of the nation’s best.

After all, Simmons leads the Clemson defense in tackles (56), tackles for loss (10) and sacks (6) through seven games.

The Kansas native ranks in the top six in the ACC in all three of those categories as well, and he has a real shot at being named the ACC Player of the Year at the end of the season.

But when Simmons analyzes his own game he doesn’t focus on the fact that he is playing at an All-American level and is a big reason why the Clemson defense is once again one of the best in the nation.

“I’m like my biggest critic. I’m really hard on myself. It’s sometimes not good how hard I am on myself but the only thing I see is what I’m doing wrong and what I can do to fix it,” Simmons said this week. “I’m a perfectionist. I hate messing up. I know instantly once I mess up I know what I did wrong, why I did it, and I’m just trying to make sure I don’t make any of those mistakes again.”

Simmons has at least tied for the team lead in tackles in five of seven games this season, and he had another solid outing last weekend against Louisville.

The redshirt junior finished second on the team in tackles with eight and had two tackles for loss and a pair of sacks. But afterward Simmons was more concerned with the mistakes he made than the success he had.

“There’s a couple times if I would have used a different technique on the tackle, where I would have had the sack,” Simmons said. “There was an opportunity in the game where I could probably have had that interception if I was just that one step quicker. So it’s just a lot of little things like that where I might still be doing my job correctly, but it’s just, in my mind, where I know what I can do to make that play that much better.”

Simmons’ mindset is one that defensive coordinator and positions coach Brent Venables appreciates.

Venables is also a perfectionist, and he loves it when his players think that same way.

“I’m pretty hard on him. I usually agree with him,” Venables said of when Simmons is upset with himself. “The best of the best are like that. Now you can’t be self-defeating. So you’ve gotta be strong minded with some toughness about you, but hold yourself to a high standard.

“It’s a great quality to have and you wish more guys had it.”


Who: Boston College (4-3, 2-2 ACC) at No. 3 Clemson (7-0, 5-0)

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Memorial Stadium

TV: ACC Network

Line: Clemson by 34.5

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Matt Connolly is the Clemson beat writer and covers recruiting and college sports for The State newspaper and The